That’s the Spirit: Why Mezcal is the Hottest Luxury for Fine Liquor Collectors
Often confused as being the same thing, mezcal couldn’t be more different than tequila. For one, it’s a spicier, more opulent option not meant to be tossed to the back of your throat from a shot glass. For another, it’s a prestigious spirit, one that can only be designated as such by an Appellation of Origin declaring its authenticity. True that they both come from distilling agave, but tequila really is a form of mezcal. And mezcal is the shining star, something you should be sipping instead.
Mezcal was created 400 years ago thanks to the Spanish conquerors that arrived in Mexico. They taught their techniques for distillation to the natives and voila! We had mezcal. It can be made from 11 unique types of agave, all of them native to Oaxaca, the place where 60% of Mexico’s mezcal comes from. The production techniques still follow the same traditional agave roasting methods, making them in small batches. It’s still the drink of choice for celebratory occasions in the region, one that has become intensely popular around the world.
As mentioned, drinking mezcal like a tequila shot is a big no-no. It’s meant to be sipped slowly and savored to the fullest. It’s also a bit like fine wine in that it’s best enjoyed with food. It has a savory, smoky flavor to it that goes astonishingly well with a plate of sliced citrus fruits like oranges or grapefruit. It’s also sublime with guava.
The proper way to serve it is in shallow clay cups called ‘copitas’ or even in the small glasses Catholic churches use to hold candles (called ‘vaso veladora’), which is likely how you will have it served to you in a proper mezcal bar. When trying a highly-prized bottle of mezcal in your home, you can use a standard rocks glass for serving.
Mezcal should never be chilled. It’s best to get the full pleasure of it by serving it at room temperature. The only time it’s acceptable to chill it is if you fashion a cocktail with mezcal. Feel free to explore using mezcal in cocktails that don’t necessarily require tequila. Even though it is an amazing pairing in a Paloma or Margarita, replacing the gin in a Negroni or Martini is an absolute delight for the palate.
If you’d like to try mezcal, it’s recommended you choose brands that feature an amber color and come from quality mezcal producers with the official certification from Mexican authorities on its authenticity. Some recommendations of those worthy of the indulgence: Del Maguey Chichicapa Cask Finish 12 Year, Mezcal Vago Olla de Barro Tobalá, and El Jolgorio Wild Tepeztate Mezcal.
While traveling, you can also pop in popular mezcal bars around the world to sample some of the finest mezcals available until you get around to starting your own esteemed collection. A few places to go: Anejo Tequileria in NYC, Mosto in San Francisco, Masa Azul in Chicago, In Situ in Oaxaca, Mamasita in Melbourne, and 184 Hackney Road in London.